Construction workers tore up about a 90-foot section of Bowen Avenue in central Modesto in late May as part of a city project to extend the Virginia Corridor, the paved trail popular with joggers, walkers and bicyclists.
That stretch of Bowen was expected to reopen a month later. But because of glitches, the city has changed the completion date, first to mid-July and now Aug. 17. The delay has residents worried.
That’s because the closed section is just east of Beard Elementary School. Residents say traffic already is bad when school is in session, with buses and parents dropping off and picking up children. They dread how bad it will be if Bowen is not open when classes resume Aug. 11.
“When school starts and if this is not finished, it’s going to be a mess,” said Marc Genest, who lives across the street from the school. “It’s going to be crazy.”
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Modesto Parks Planning and Development Manager Loren Holt said the city is working to get the Bowen work finished before school starts. He said if that cannot be done, the city will lessen the impact of the closure and do everything it can to keep traffic moving. He said he has spoken with school officials and will keep them updated.
The city is spending about $2 million in federal and state money to extend the Virginia Corridor from Bowen to Woodrow Avenue, a distance of about seven-tenths of a mile, which would bring the trail’s total length to about 3 miles.
Construction workers tore up the stretch of Bowen near where the corridor crosses it to take a hump out of the street and make the street level. The hump was left behind when the railroad tracks that crossed Bowen were removed years ago. Work on the rest of the project continues.
Holt said workers unearthed two problems when they dug up Bowen: The dirt could not be compacted sufficiently to make it stable enough to put in the new road, and the Modesto Irrigation District had concerns that there was not enough clearance between the new road and one of its underground pipelines.
Holt said the city developed a solution for compacting the dirt two to three weeks ago and submitted a new design for the pipeline to MID on June 3. He said the city expects MID to approve the plans soon. “We are hoping to have everything in place by this week and get the contractor back on board,” he said.
MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams said in an email that her agency understands the need to finish the work. “There are several mutually beneficial public works projects that MID and the City of Modesto are engaged in discussions about, one of which is this project, and both agencies recognize the urgency to complete the Virginia Trail at Bowen before the school year starts.
“MID General Manager Roger VanHoy is working with Interim City Manager Jim Holgersson to complete the necessary steps so both the City and MID can proceed with our respective projects as soon as possible. MID’s goal is the same as the City’s – to move forward with as little impact as we can to our customers, which in most respects are the same customers.”
Holt said it would take two to three weeks to finish the work on Bowen and about four to five weeks to finish extending the corridor to Woodrow Avenue.
He said based on the records for previous construction projects in that area, the city had no reason to believe there would be problems when workers dug up Bowen Avenue.
The project has been vexing for Lena Rodabaugh. Her home is next to where Bowen has been dug up and closed. Temporary chain-link fencing has blocked her driveway for weeks, so she has to park her pickup on the street.
And on Friday, a section of her 4-foot-tall fence that faces the corridor collapsed with a bang. Rodabaugh suspects someone was trying to climb over the fence to get to the other side of Bowen when the fence gave way.
She’s made temporary repairs, and Holt said the city will have the fence fixed. She said Holt has called her, explained the delays and apologized. But she still feels she’s gotten the runaround from the city. “I find this whole thing extremely stressful,” Rodabaugh said. “I’m feeling really drained just talking about it, to tell you the truth.”